Last week in my article about halloween safety tips, I brought up using an online service to find and map sex offenders. Knowing this kind of tool exists can help you plan your next move, community event or simply keep your child away from those who have been convicted of a crime and instructed to be on the sex offense registry. Researching this information can be daunting. I would suggest that someone in your home be brave enough to look at this several times a year to make sure that you are aware of any dangers in your area.
Now there are a variety of sites out there that will tell you they run a search based on your input of a state, name, zip code or address. Many of these sites do provide legitimate information, however I can’t seem to verify how up to date these services are. When you Google “sex offender map” you’ll get a few ads at the top of the page. Do not use these. They will build you a profile based on the information you put in, but it will require an email address to get the information. This is just a ploy to get your email address. There are plenty of sites that do not require an email address because this is FREE information provided by law enforcement agencies.
In my previous post I suggested using FamilyWatchdog.us. This site does provide a map for you without an email address. The process is quick and easy. However this site does not directly pull information from the official databases. Upon closer inspection you will find that Family Watchdog search results are provided by BeenVerifyed.com.
Family Watchdog does provide fast information in an easy to use format. When searching your zip code you get a clean, Google Maps overlay with red, pink and green markers on it. Those markers are registered sex offenders. The red, pink and green color codes differentiate the degree of offense. Red being the worst. When you click on a marker you get a profile on the offender with information like birth date, height, weight and a photo. At the bottom you can click on the charges leveled against that individual. This is a good tool to research the area surrounding your home, child’s school and workplace.
The National Sex Offender Public Registry has it’s very own app that you can use on your smartphone. The NSOPW (National Sex Offender Public Website) app uses your phone’s location to perform a search in a radius of up to one mile around you. You will need to submit to terms and conditions every time you use the app. The map populates with house icons that let you know the name, address and photo of the registered sex offender when you tap on it. You can click on the pop up box for more information. If you need even more information you can click a link to the person’s profile on your state’s database to find critical information such as the degree of sexual conduct and if it was with a minor. Remember not all sex offenders have committed acts against a minor. The app has a narrow scope of use, but it is still a good resource for families that travel or who are considering moving to a new neighborhood. The app is available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for free. Simply search for NSOPW.
When I searched the area around my home with the NSOPW app and Family Watchdog, I did find contrasting information. There were two near my home, one which both services confirmed and the second differed. When it comes down to it, I feel that the NSOPW app provides more reliable information. Looking at the NSOPW website you will find that it pulls information directly from the official databases whereas Family Watchdog provides information from BeenVerifiyed.com. If you want more search tools for your area, I suggest the NSOPW.gov.
Both tools serve a good purpose. If you are casually looking for information then Family Watchdog can provide you just that. For more serious information, I would suggest consulting the NSOPW app and website.